By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2014, All Rights Reserved
Being someone that is into martial training I want the best training possible. Before I go to an instructor or sign up for a seminar I want to know what the instructor’s credentials are and I, like most other people, are impressed by someone who is a former SEAL or from the 75th Rangers or what have you. These guys get some of the best training in the world and there is a vast amount of great information that they can share with you that just could save your life.
Something that I learned a long time ago was that when you teach the military it is a little different then teaching civilians. With the military you have to look at their rules of engagement and plan your curriculum around that; you also have to look at the group’s specific mission and modify your curriculum to that too. I can teach a civilian anything I want but if I teach a room full of military police officers or infantrymen I have to be kind of choosy.
It didn’t dawn on my until a few years ago but the same is true in reverse. You could get a notice that “Mr. X” is coming to town to do a seminar and he is a former Navy SEAL with 146 combat missions under his belt and you get really excited since a guy like that must know some great stuff. It’s true that our fictional “Mr. X” probably knows some great stuff but you also have to take into consideration that he was trained by the military for military purposes. His training is molded to his unique rules of engagement and his unit’s unique mission.
In other words, while he can teach some great stuff it may not be the best information for the average civilian. It could even get the average civilian killed in the right situation.
Consider this, in the military their main weapon is a rifle which is meant to kill at a distance. Also, many military groups including the SEALs zero their rifles at 100 meters. Right there that tells you that the military knows that if a soldier has to respond to a threat it is probably not going to be close in. Most engagements for the average infantry soldier are probably from 25 meters to maybe 200 meters (educated guess). Soldiers with different jobs would face different distances.
As a civilian if we have a threat to respond to it is more than likely going to be anywhere from 0 to just 5 feet away from us. That is a big difference right there.
In the military a soldier is first taught hand-to-hand combat for the purposes of learning to be aggressive. The military doesn’t care about the hand-to-hand skill of a basic infantryman or whether they know the best techniques, rather they know that if the infantryman loses his rifle and is aggressive enough he can probably overpower his enemy long enough to get to another weapon. The military knows aggression is key.
Going beyond a basic infantryman to advanced training the military now cares if the techniques you know work or not but your training is focused on fighting to a weapon. If you are too close to use your rifle you fight until you can get enough distance to use your rifle. If you lose your rifle you fight until you can get to your side arm or a knife. Everything is based on the practice of getting you to a weapon.
As a civilian you don’t have a bunch of weapons on you to fight to. If you did you probably wouldn’t be fighting to get enough time and distance to get to a rifle but rather a pocket knife or maybe some pepper spray. A civilian has to focus more on empty handed skills then their military counterpart.
You might see “Mr. X” teach a great empty handed technique and think it’s great and then ask him why he did what he did and the conversation might go like this:
“That’s a cool technique, but why did you make that big movement there?”
“Because that way my right arm is clear and I can access my sidearm or knife.”
“What if you didn’t have any other weapons?”
“Well, in that case I probably wouldn’t have done that motion. I probably would have struck him with my arm instead.”
Or maybe he’d say that he did the technique in that manner because in Iraq their rules of engagement required a very narrow response, but given freedom of choice he may have chosen to do something else altogether.
Take using a pistol for example; in the military you’re taught to draw your pistol and go from position 1 to position 4 where you present you weapon, put your finger on the trigger, and focus on the front site. That is great training…when your target is at least 7ft away.
If a civilian is confronted at the statistical 5ft and they draw their pistol and present it they are holding it out and are basically begging for their attacker to take it away from them. It is better for a civilian to learn to point shoot from position 2 and 3 so their pistol is close in and protected and then go to position 4 if distance allows. Effectively point shooting from 5ft is very doable.
When a soldier goes into battle they are well armed, have team mates to watch their backs, and will most likely encounter threats from a distance and work to close that distance. A civilian will most likely not be well armed (even if you carry a gun you’re probably not as well armed as a modern soldier), is probably alone or with others who are not trained to watch their back, and when they encounter a threat it will be extremely close in and they will have to fight through it or engage it close in and then work to getting distance. Two very different paradigms.
That is two very big differences that need to be taken into account. When I used to teach the military all the time I had to change my training to fit their needs and military instructors need to do the same for civilians. This is something important to keep in mind when selecting an instructor or choosing a curriculum to teach if you’re an instructor.
As a last example, if a soldier was on the battlefield and they spotted a new threat in the middle of a magazine change they would immediately transition to their side arm, present it to the target, focus on the front site, and most likely engage the target while walking either towards it or at a 45 degree angle.
If I had a firearm concealed on me under my jacket and I’m out with my wife and suddenly a man comes out of the shadows while we’re approaching our car I’m going to judge my response by our distance, what he’s doing with his hands, if he’s alone, and if I detect asocial behavior. If he comes out of nowhere and he is standing at arm’s length threatening me with a knife I’m not going to go right to my gun and end up getting stabbed to death while it is halfway out of the holster. I might wait until he says the next word and then knock his arm out of the way while I step in deep and punch him in the throat using my bodyweight and every bit of strength I can muster. As he stumbles back a few feet and falls to the ground I’m going to move with him and be right there with a stomp to the groin or maybe a kick to the head, but I’m going to do something while he is on the ground. Once I put a hard stomp or two into him I’m then going to turn and scan for more threats while I draw my gun at the same time. Why did I not draw my gun sooner? I was too close and I didn’t have time.